Foreign investment in Cambodia's agriculture sector has expanded since 2005, although the figures remain modest. The Cambodian government has prioritized investment in the sector, and an important part of the government’s strategy has been its policies on land concessions. A 2005 sub-decree sets out the procedures, mechanisms and institutional arrangements for offering economic land concessions (ELCs), with the objective of improving crop diversity, productivity, and employment, among other benefits. By 2009, just over a third of ELCs had gone to foreign investors.
Preliminary assessments of these land concessions shed light on a range of positive and negative impacts. There is reason to be concerned over the social, environmental and economic impacts of the investments that have been studied so far. The employment opportunities for local residents are not always plentiful or attractive, and the large projects can encroach on land that is critical to local livelihoods.
This brief provides an overview of trends in agricultural investment in Cambodia, discusses the impacts—particularly from investments in agricultural land—and provides some recommendations to policy-makers on how to maximize the benefits of investment in the sector going forward.